Granite Religion

January 09, 2012

With the critical New Hampshire primary tomorrow, one might expect religious rhetoric in the presidential campaign to cool off. After all, conservative evangelicals play a much smaller role in the New Hampshire primary than in the Iowa caucuses. This is because New Hampshire is one of the most secular states in the nation and because they have a primary rather than a caucus (the former of which has larger turnout and thus is less likely to see one well-organized group exert an exaggerated influence as evangelicals have in Iowa). As in Iowa, evangelicals in New Hampshire are divided over which candidate they support. Despite the differences between Iowa and New Hampshire, several of the Republican candidates are still using confessional politics in hopes of finding political salvation in the ballot box. For instance, at a New Hampshire town hall meeting, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum--who now has much more national attention due to his strong Iowa showing (see post here)--declared:

We always need a Jesus candidate. We need someone who believes in something more than themselves and not just the economy. ... When we say, 'God bless America,' do we mean it or do we just say it?
Santorum, who should do better in South Carolina than in New Hampshire, took a break from campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday to head to South Carolina and receive the endorsement of religious-political activist Gary Bauer (the photo is one I took of Bauer last June). Bauer used to head the Family Research Council, a key organization in our age of confessional politics. During his presidential run in 2000, Bauer came in fourth place in Iowa with nine percent of the vote, but then got last place in New Hampshire with only one percent (Bauer than dropped out and endorsed U.S. Senator John McCain). Continuing to justify confessional politics, Bauer penned a column in today's USA Today entitled "Why voters should apply a religious test."

In other New Hampshire religious-political news, a supposedly pro-Ron Paul group is being criticized for an ad that questions former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman's patriotism and faith. The ad shows clips of Huntsman speaking fluent Chinese, calls him a "Manchurian candidate," and asks if he has "American values or Chinese?" (as if having a smart president is a bad thing). The ad also shows a photo of Huntsman and his adopted daughter from India each with a red tikka on their forehead and asks if Hunstmans "shares our values?" and if he is "a man of faith?" That part of the ad drew an angry response from the Hindu American Foundation:
This deplorable ad is blatantly racist and religiously intolerant, and crosses all lines of acceptable political discourse.
Both Huntsman and Paul both have denounced the despicable ad. It is not only inaccurate, but the worst kind of confessional politics. Interestingly, Huntsman--who uses less confessional politics than any of the other candidates (see post here) and even passes on some chances to talk about his faith--views himself as a David fighting against Goliath. However, unless he can take a strong second tomorrow, Huntsman will likely be the one who falls.

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